For All Nails, pt. 121: October Surprise
Chihuahua City, Durango
13 October 1974
The crowd was more subdued than normal, but only slightly. Security
checks at public forums had been a fact of life in Mexico ever since
the Rainbow War, but over the last twenty years they had become
perfunctory, both checker and checkee simply going through the
motions. This time, though, not only were the Chihuahua City police
officers assigned to the Emiliano Calles Estadio de Toros taking their
job seriously, they were supplemented by federal Constabulary officers
in their telltale brown combat fatigues and incongruous conical
sombreros. Rumors were flying that some big-name político was going
to open the match, perhaps even Governor Tagle. Matches at this level
were usually opened by some wannabe bigwig who would give some
boilerplate about how the toros represented the true Mexican spirit,
blah blah blah ... except in California, where politicians tried to
stay as far away from the controversy regarding the sport (or art, or
savagery, depending on who you talked to) as they could. It was
usually about as interesting as watching the match crew paint the zone
markings onto the bullring. All the security today, however, promised
a genuine bigwig, who might actually have something entertaining to
This was a big match, with one of Mexico's best matadors scheduled to
perform. As always, the cheerleaders for the Chihuahua City Cavaliers
cricket team opened the match with one of their racier performances.
This one pushed the envelope, borrowing as it did from an underground
charlabom dance routine, but it went over well. The women admired
their athletic talent, and the men admired ... uh ...
After the cheerleaders the matadors rode out on horseback, waving to
the crowd. Don Francisco Tacano, easily identifiable even from the
nosebleed seats in his trademark neon green jersey, was the main
attraction --- for most of the male spectators, that is, because a
not-insignificant percentage were much more interested in watching the
cheerleaders --- and he got even this subdued crowd to roar.
After which the two announcers got out onto the field and hollered
into a microphone, "Damas y caballeros! Welcome to IPN's Monday Night
Bullfighting. I'm your host, Johnny Gómez, and this is my partner,
Nick Diamante" --- the shorter mustachioed blond man waved to the
crowd --- "And do we have a night for you! Here we have the world's
foremost matador, a champion at both Mexican toreo _and_ Spanish
tradicional, Puerto Hancock's own Franciiiiiiiiiisco Tacano!"
Thunderous applause. "And we've also got, as you've just seen and ---
damas, hide your men --- will see again, the infamous and oh-so
riiiiiiiiica Chihuahua City Chavas of Cheer!!!!!" Even more applause.
"But before we begin," boomed out Diamante in his baritone, "We've got
a surprise for you. Our scheduled speaker and former football hero,
Governor Clark Tagle, has kindly agreed to give up his scheduled
speaking engagement for ..." dramatic pause ... "the President of the
United States of Mexico, Don Immanuel Moctezuma!!!"
The crowd was stunned. The President! After a moment, scattered
applause could be heard, and soon it traveled around the stadium bit
by bit by bit, picking up speed, but it never really took off into
anything worthy of the word ovation. The President! Here! To
address them! And to address the nation, of course --- half the
nation was tuned into this match --- but to address them! The
president had been silent ever since the revelations two weeks ago.
If anything could have gotten the attention of a crowd waiting to see
bulls get slaughtered, this was it. They were too curious to clap.
The president strode out across the field to the emcee, waving at the
crowd. As he waved to certain sections, applause picked up there, but
it still failed to take off. The president, wearing a brown business
suit and looking simply huge compared to the diminutive cheerleaders
and matadors, marched up to the announcer, clapped him on the back,
and took the microphone into his own hand. His hand was so large that
the mike practically seemed to disappear inside a human cricket mitt.
"Hello, Chihuahua!" boomed the President. "Hello Mexico!" There was
"As you probably know, the Congress of the United States is currently
debating a measure of no little importance: the future of Secretary
Vicente Mercator." He paused and smiled. "I hope that you won't mind
indulging me for a few minutes while I speak about the Secretary's
fate." He gestured towards Don Tacano and the other matadors. "I
know you all want to see Francisco go up against the bulls. I do too,
but my wife always used to call me supremely bull headed, so I don't
feel so bad." There were some smiles at the lame joke. "Anyway, I
know it's tradition for local politicians to speak at these events,
and I hope that what I have to say might be a _little_ more
interesting than the usual." 
He paused for a second. "Vicente Mercator is a great man. There's no
doubt about that. Remember what life was like in the early fifties?
Terrorist racialists assaulting our hard-won Rainbow coalition. Men
who sought to cling to power tearing apart our political life. The
insidious machinations of Kramer Associates undermining our economy.
During the gravest crisis which our Republic has ever faced, Vicente
Mercator y Félix García made the hard decisions y took the difficult
actions needed to preserve our Constitution y our way of life.
"Y after the crisis had passed, Vicente Mercator did not retire to his
law office in Jefferson, but laid the groundwork for the stability we
enjoy today. He built the United States Health Service, the finest y
most egalitarian health care system in the world. He built the
Federal Universities, the greatest y most open school system on the
planet, one which provides all Mexicans with more opportunity than any
other nation. He built the supercalzadas, to bring together our
far-flung continental republic. He built the military-industrial
complex into the powerful force it is today. Damas y caballeros, by
1960, Vicente Mercator y his allies had saved the United States."
The President shrugged. "So why have I fired him?" Laughter tittered
across the stands. The crowd was transfixed: this was going to be a
show. And Moctezuma needed that crowd: he never came across well on
the vita, not without some human interaction to show him how he was
"Well, what has he done for you lately?" More laughter at the
reference to a Tania Monroy song. "Let me list them. He has used the
Department of War for his own personal gain. I have submitted to
Congress a list of seventeen contractors from whom he has personally
skimmed profits, y hundreds --- yes, hundreds --- of other cases in
which firms connected to Mercator or his cronies received contracts
over superior competitors. He has run a personal foreign policy,
against the desires of the duly-elected representatives of the Mexican
gente, putting his own interests above the interests of the gente of
the USM. He has subverted the democratically elected governments of
our neighbors, encouraging racial strife and terrorist violence. He
has supported the restoration and expansion of monarchy on the
American continent. He has brought the world closer to the brink of a
new Global War under the guise of a War without War."
The President paused for a heartbeat. "Now, we do live in a bad
neighborhood, but as anyone from East Puerto Hancock can tell you,
it's far better to walk the walk than talk the talk." There was some
more laughter, louder this time, as people were relieved to hear him
break the tension. Tacano was from EPH, an infamously tough area.
"Under my foreign policy, the policy you voted for three years ago, we
have pursued peace through strength. The strength of our economy, the
strength of our military, y the strength of our example. No other
nation could produce an example of such unity out of such diversity."
Now he was on a roll. "Only our history could produce such greatness.
Andrew Jackson united Jeffersonian y Mexican. Miguel Huddleston
united Anglo y Hispano. Benito Hermión united the poor y the rich. Y
the happy warrior, Emiliano Calles --- for whom this estadio is named
--- completed the Rainbow with the Manumission Act of 1921. I would
not be here before you were it not for General Calles's completion of
Mexico's universal destiny!"
There was applause, but the President continued through it. "Calles
made us the Rainbow. Calles made us the world. We are the world. We
are the children of Jackson and Cuauhtémoc. We are the ones who make
the world a brighter place!" His voice rose. "Just you and me:
Anglo, Hispano, Mexicano, Indian, Negro --- Mexico is the World!!!"
At this point the stadium erupted into thunderous applause. This was
the rhetoric people wanted, this was the rhetoric Moctezuma needed,
this was rhetoric that made people proud of Mexico and to be Mexican …
and made it un-Mexican to resent the President for the color of his
As the applause continued, the President took a small folded piece of
yellow paper out of his suit pocket. He slowly unfolded it, and as
the noise from the stands continued, he began to read: "We hold these
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..." Before
he got to the second sentence, the cheering was so loud as to drown
out the amplified voice of El Popo.
As the applause died down, the President took his speech in a
different direction. Mercatorista newspapers would later criticize
it, writing: _The President's speech was one long non sequitur: it
may not have made any sense, but El Popo sure does like pizza._ That
didn't matter, though: what mattered was the reaction of the people
in that stadium, and more importantly, the millions watching on vita
or who would watch the re-broadcast on the news stations in the coming
day. He was speaking as if their opinion really mattered, and that
made politics _fun_ again.
"Elected officials, those selected by the gente, from the gente, to
serve the gente, must be ever vigilant against the tyranny of the
camarilla. It is tempting to join those who seem to know everything,
who have been around forever. But we do not serve them. They were
not elected. And they do not and should not guide us. What can they
see from their little rooms? How can they tell how government is
doing better than you can? The government exists to serve _you_, and
nobody can tell if you're being served more clearly than you! You
know what you want and you know what you need, and you deserve to be
governed by men accountable to you. If we, your government, or me,
your president, kicks the duck, then you can kick our culo. No one
can or should be able to take that away from you. Mexicans must be
able to say to their government: we'll have it _our_ way. You can
fire me, but if I can't fire the bureaucrats, then you won't be able
to have it your way, you'll have it their way, and that's un-Mexican!
Emiliano Calles did his job, saved his nation, and stepped down. It
is time for Vicente Mercator to do the same."
As the applause rose again, the President nodded to the fans in the
stands. "Thank you. Thank you. Oh, and one more thing ... ¡Viva
Tacano!" The applause went on, and didn't stop until after the
President had left the field.
20 October 1974
1LT (AUX) Sebastian Quezadas was an annoyed and uncomfortable man.
They'd radioed Coyoacán for instructions, but no clarification was
forthcoming. But there they were, sitting on the runway, and their
own goddamned troops weren't letting them get off the plane.
He sat in the hold of the C-12, hot and bored and surrounded by 300
other hot and bored heavily-armed men. He looked at MAJ Brady. MAJ
Brady looked at him. "Sitting around with nothin' to do," said Brady.
"You're lookin' at me, I'm lookin' at you," completed Quezadas.
"At least they let us land," commented TCO Andría. Both officers
looked at him. "Shut up, brokepenny," said Quezadas, about as
succinctly as it got.
"Sir," asked DWO Garce, "Why aren't they letting us off the plane?
It's been two hours."
"I dunno," growled the Major. He was not a happy man. He had not
been happy when the order suddenly came down that they were actually
deploying to Cuba. In fact, his words to Colonel Donaldson had been,
"Fuck, sir, I got a whole bunch of rotociviles who been here less than
a month, and you want us to deploy on three days notice?"  The
answer had been "yes." The next thing they knew, they were packed up
and on a bus to Tizayuca, where the big Army Air Base was located.
 Then they were issued weapons --- which bothered both Brady and
both his Regular and Reserve XOs. The Reserve XO --- Joe Talvi, a
gruff Jeffersonian ex-Marine --- had been especially bothered: why
the fuck are we flying to Cuba? Why are we flying to Cuba in battle
dress and carrying Rojas-65s? Why is a _Group Three combat support
company_ flying to Cuba in full battle dress and carrying Rojas-65s???
Yeah, they like to remind us that everybody's default tecspec is
alfa-one-carlos, but this was silly.
"This is driving me nuts," said TCP (AUX) Warren, fingering his
Quezadas looked out the window. There were armed Regulars out there
on the tarmac. Now, they were milling around, and a whole lot of them
were smoking cigarettes, but they were _armed_. Something was very
Something had, in fact, been wrong going in, when they were denied
permission to land. They were only allowed down when the pilot had
(falsely) claimed that he was running out of fuel and wasn't about to
take a fully loaded Ox into a civilian airport in a war zone without
an intelligence report.
Brady looked out the window too. "Okay. Enough. I don't know about
you, but these parametrallas as are making my neck ache. [3a] This
is fucking ridiculous." He pressed the button on the link to the
cabin over his head. "Captain Astori! Open up the ramps. We're
getting out of here."
"One or both ramps, sir?" asked Astori. He had what sounded like a
Californian accent to everyone there except Brady, who actually was
>from California. It always annoyed him that the flyboys all tried to
sound like they were chingones from East Puerto Hancock. It
especially annoyed him that CPT Astori sounded so, well, fuckin'
comfortable up front there.
Normally troops in a C-12 configured for carrying soldiers would exit
>from the rear ramp only, making it easier to count and form up on the
tarmac. But normally the troops in a C-12 wouldn't have been kept
waiting in the hold for two goddamned hours.
"Both ramps, Captain. Open 'em both." He took his thumb off the comm
switch. "Okay, men, we're getting off this godbedamned airmobile.
Ready for disembarkation!" For most of the men, that just meant
making sure they knew where their Rojases were. Brady was at the rear
of the plane, along with Quezadas: officers were first-off in
A-company of the 56th CSB. 
There was a whine as the servos started to let down the ramps at both
ends of the plane. Quezadas was still looking out the window. He
wasn't particularly surprised to see the soldiers milling around in
the hot sun start pointing and tossing away their cigarettes. Then
Brady tapped him on the casco, and it was time to run off the
At which point Quezadas became _very_ surprised to see that in the
intervening fifteen seconds the soldiers --- Mexican soldiers --- on
the tarmac had dropped into the prone and were pointing very ugly
autocarbines at them. "Positions!" yelled Brady, and to his surprise
Quezadas found himself fanning out from the ramp and dropping down
into the prone on autopilot. Maybe he had been trained better than
_Oh my_ thought some distant part of his mind _I'm pointing my weapon
at real people. Mexican people. This is quite odd._ Another part of
his mind thought that it was quite odd for him to be using expressions
like "quite odd."
Brady, good officer that he was, was out in front. Or did that make
him a bad officer? Quezadas couldn't remember. But he did see the
Major waving as the rest of the 150 men in the company poured off the
rear of the transport, and raggedly fanned out around the tarmac.
Very raggedly. They were a combat support unit, after all, not
infantry. They were trained to come under fire, but distant fire or
artillery fire, and they weren't trained to operate as a large group,
and anyway Basic training was a long time ago.
Meanwhile, Brady was simultaneously yelling at the soldiers around the
airmobile. "What the fuck are you doing, you fuckheads! For the
fucking love of God, stand the fuck down!"
At the same time, one of the officers leading the, uh, opposing troops
was also yelling. "What the fuck are you doing!" Nice symmetry
there. "Get back on the fucking plane!" _Not likely_ thought
Quezadas. The officers on both sides sounded really really angry.
_Hey, that's how they teach you to sound at ROTC_ he idly thought. _I
shoulda joined the Navy._
_Okay ... must think ... there's something I'm supposed to do here,
right?_ Andría was flat on the ground next to him. Other soldiers
running off the plane were stomping right over him, their boots coming
precariously close to his rifle-toting arms or his splayed out legs.
 A few of the officers were standing and directing their men.
Quezadas didn't feel bad about that --- he was just an intelligence
officer, a glorified map-reader. 
Deep in his own head, he missed the first shot. Pop! Then another
series of pops, he wasn't sure how many. But he did see Major Brady
fall backwards, his weapon clattering to the asphalt.
Pop! Pop! Pop! Popoppopopoppopopopopopop …. the sounds of
small-arms fire started to come from all around where Quezadas lay on
the ground. _¡Putamadre!_ he thought. He started to fire at the
grey-green blobs in front of him. Pop! Pop! It didn't seem real.
It was so unreal that Andría even paused for a moment, and the two of
them just looked at each other. Then Quezadas felt an agonizing pain
in the back of right calf. _How the fuck did I get hit there?_ he
thought, quite lucidly, even as his mouth screamed
"AAAaaaaauuuuughhh!!"  He kept shooting, even more poorly aimed
He wasn't paying attention when the loudspeakers from the control
tower started bellowing "CEASE FIRE! CEASE FIRE!" But he didn't need
to be. Nobody on either side wanted to be shooting, and it stopped
almost immediately. In fact, they'd probably been firing for less
than a minute, maybe thirty seconds.
His heart was pumping in his chest, and he found he could barely
breathe. He couldn't feel anything in his right calf. _Gotta calm
down, be cool for kid. Set an example._ He turned to Andría.
The young TCO was dead, shot right through the left eye.
21 October 1974
Mexico City, C.F.
"What the fuck do you mean he REGRETS the incident! Regrets it! What
the hell does that mean?" fulminated El Popo.
"He says he regrets it," said Chewy Enciso.
"Well, why doesn't he come down here in person and tell me that he
regrets it, the pinche ratón! Huh!?" yelled the President.
"We don't know," shrugged his Chief of Staff, calm in the face of
fire. "Bisteni thinks he's in New Granada right now doing ...
"New fucking Granada! Granada! Nnnnnnnaaaaauuugh ... blaugh.
Granada. What the fuck is he doing there?" asked the nation's
"I don't know," answered Chewy. "The Secretary isn't exactly
answering any questions other than those posed to him by Congress. Y
Congress has gone home to campaign for the election."
"I knew that. Okay. Bueno. Fuck." The President was calming down
now. "Who gave the order not to let the men off the plane?"
"We don't know, but it wasn't the base commander's idea: the order
apparently came from New Granada. It turns out, get this, that the
chain-of-command from all of our bases in the Caribbean leads through
a special office in, badum bum, New Granada." Chewy looked at the
President, somewhat conspiratorially.
"Aaaaaaahhh hah," said Immanuel Moctezuma. "Aren't those units
supposed to report directly back to Coyoacán?"
"That's what they tell me," answered the Chief of Staff.
"Nnnnyomina bomina. Y does that happen to be why Bisteni thinks the
Mapmaker is in New Granada right now?" asked the President.
"I'm not sure, patrón. Should I get him in here?"
"Yeah. Get him in here. Y get Luria and Ávila in here too. I have
some things I want them to, uh, research."
"Tan facil, sir," said Chewy.
"Are you mocking me?" asked the President.
"Never, sir. Just congratulating you on becoming commander-in-chief
again." He smiled, saluted, and did a smart about-face. El Popo
burst out laughing. "Be back in a jiff, sir!" shouted Chewy as he
left the room.
_You couldn't let these sort of things get you down_, thought Chewy as
he left the Presidential room and swept into the bustle and noise of
Chapultepec Castle. _This was a horrible incident, but all the
evidence is that it was just an accident. Anyway it will only help us
He had the decency to be immediately ashamed of that thought.
30 October 1974
New York, New York
>From the _New York Herald_, page W1
Moctezuma and Del Rey Campaign as Much Against Each Other as Mercator
By Roland Hedley-Burton
The President and his Secretary of State have been barnstorming the
entire country, giving close-in speeches to groups small and large.
They are campaigning non-stop for Congressional candidates in the
upcoming November election, and they are both campaigning as if their
own jobs were at stake. Which is not far from the truth, especially
for the President. It is a brand of retail politics that Mexico has
not seen on the national level in decades. Yet even taking that into
account, there is something strange about this campaign.
In Henrytown, the President talks about free trade. In Guanajuato,
the Secretary of State talks about protecting small farmers. In San
Francisco, the President takes credit for preserving the budget
surplus. In Lafayette, the Secretary of State talks about pressing
spending needs. In Manzanillo, the President lauds the socialized
U.S. Health Service. In San Diego, the Secretary of State pushes tax
breaks to help families fill gaping holes in public coverage. Both
officials are helping only candidates who have pledged to vote against
the bill of impeachment before the lower house of the legislature, but
other than that nothing --- not even membership in the Progressive
Party --- connects the candidates for whom the Secretary campaigns,
and the candidates for whom stumps the President.
In other words, it seems as if two shadow campaigns are happening at
the same time, neither of which is officially recognized. The first
is to re-elect the President --- or, as many here put it, to "elect a
Commander-in-Chief." It is an election run both on the President's
record since taking office in 1972, and on the scandals that have
enveloped the Department of War in recent days. It is also a
referendum on whether Mexicans are ready to accept their first Negro
president. In that election, both the President and the Secretary of
State are on the same side.
The second election is between two parties for the control of
Congress, neither of which has an official name. One party, the
President's party, is an odd alliance of urban industrial workers,
poor southern Mexicanos, and big business. The other, María del
Rey's party, is an equally ill-fitting coalition of small farmers,
small businessmen, urban professionals, and big business. While the
battle between President Moctezuma and War Secretary Mercator
dominates the headlines, the battle between the president's men and
the followers of Secretary of State María del Rey for control of the
legislature may be more important to the country's future ... 
 Tacano is a Hispanicization of "Tanaka." There is nothing
Japanese about him save his grandparents, which is why Osterman picked
this forum for El Popo. Tacano is a hero to millions of Mexican toreo
fans. The implied message is: if Tacano is as Mexican as pay de
manzana, despite the fact that his distant cousins tried hard to kill
Mexicans in the 1940s, why am I any less Mexican because my distant
cousins _may_ have tried to kill blancos in the 1940s?
 Rotociviles --- literally, "torn-up civilians," albeit in
somewhat ungrammatical form. But remember, this is the USM. Anyone
have an opinion as to whether they teach their own peculiar grammar in
the schools, or at least try to inculcate the young with something
resembling standard Spanish?
 In OTL, there is a small Fuerza Áerea Mexicana base in the area
--- not that the Fuerza Áerea Mexicana has any large bases --- and it
is the most probable location for Mexico City's new airport now that
political disputes have shot down the Texcoco site. In the FANTL, as
you may have noticed, Mexico City's airport is in Texcoco. The area
taken up by OTL's airport is a shabby neighborhood of tightly-packed
single-family homes and scattered apartment buildings, not unlike a
slightly more prosperous version of the neighborhood's that surround
the airport OTL.
[3a] A parametralla is, literally, a shrapnel-stopper. We would call
it a flak jacket. Real body armor does not yet exist in the FANTL.
 In the U.S. Army, a CPT would have Brady's position, not a MAJ,
but this is a Group 3 reserve unit. It's not even a combat unit.
 You're supposed to cock one leg on your firing side towards the
knee for support, but Quezadas has forgotten that in the unexpected
 In the U.S. Army, the enlisted men do that. I don't know what
the officers do. Something. :)
 A round ricocheted off the C-12's fuselage behind him and hit him
>from above and behind.
 This reporter's analysis of the electoral coalitions behind the
two shadow parties is way off, but he is right that two separate
parties seem to be emerging under the rubric of the Progressive Party.
President Moctezuma had made some headway in turning Mercator's
creation into a real political party, but the impeachment campaign has
forced him to undo much of that work in order to weaken
pro-impeachment Progressive incumbents and help small third-party
candidates who support him.